Why We Take Steps

On October 5, we’ll join the community for Take Steps in Their Shoes. Now in its third year, this event allows all in attendance to celebrate survivors who have gone through the unthinkable. It provides an opportunity to walk together, talking, growing and healing along the way. And it serves as a major fundraising event for Steps to End Domestic Violence, the money raised used to provide free and confidential services to those who have experienced abuse.  

So – why do we do it? 

The day is a happy one. It’s a big, purple party! Because we deserve it. Our stories are unique, they are our own, and sharing them is powerful. Those listening will without a doubt learn something new – about the speakers and about just how domestic violence affects us. By sharing, we’re owning our experiences and acknowledging personal triumph. 

 How you can get involved

1. Register to attend. 

Grab your ticket now for just $35 and secure your spot in the day’s events. The first 100 people to show up will get a great souvenir to take home – stay tuned for more details on that. If you can, wear purple shoes – purple is the color associated with domestic violence awareness and it looks great as we walk through Burlington’s South End.

Click here to register

2. Speak. 

Do you have a story to share? Work with us to develop it for the stage and present it live at ArtsRiot during the event. Never shared publicly before? Nervous about public speaking? We get that – our friend and storytelling expert Sue Schmidt will show you the ropes and work one-on-one to help you get ready. It’s a low-pressure, supportive environment, we promise. 

If you’d like to speak, email jessf@stepsvt.org to talk about it.  

3. Donate.

You’re out of town October 5 – bummer! But don’t worry, you can still support the event and our work. By donating you’re taking a stand against domestic violence and directly supporting those who have experienced it. Any amount makes a difference – give once or give monthly, it’s up to you. 

Donate now!

4. Start your own fundraiser.

Tell your friends why you’re a supporter of Steps to End Domestic Violence and encourage them to become one, too. It’s so easy – visit our campaign page and click “I Want to Fundraise For This.” Then share your fundraiser with your social networks and watch the gifts roll in! The more we share, the more we can raise together. 

Start your fundraiser here


If you have any questions about registration or fundraising, don’t hesitate to reach out – contact Jessie Forand, Development + Communications Manager, at jessf@stepsvt.orgor (802) 658-3131 x 1063. 

Age Is Just A Number

Note: This is a real story, written by a real person. Please be aware of potential triggers in this important piece. To share your story, click here.

I’m 4 years old. I keep having re-occurring nightmares that a monster is coming in my room at night to change my diaper. I haven’t worn diapers in years, and I’m not a bed wetter. The monster always smells like beer, he touches me in ways that don’t really hurt, and I’m far too sleepy to pay much attention. These dreams happen almost every night until I start school. Then they suddenly stop.

I’m 6. I just got off the school bus and I’m walking home through the trailer park. I have to pass 5 or 6 houses before I get to mine. The neighbor boy is home already, He’s 14, he asks me if I want to see his train set. He must know I love trains. I tell him I have to go home first. I know that I have to go straight home after school. He tells me it’ll only take a minute. He tells me my dad said it was ok. So I go in. I only vaguely remember looking at the toy train, what I remember is being alone with him in his room, cornered, confused. He tells me “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” and he exposes himself. I’d never seen a penis before, I tell him I need to get home. I’m embarrassed, I have a lot of questions. I tell him that mine doesn’t look like that. So he asks what it looks like. He won’t let me go. He’s holding me in place, telling me I can’t go until I show him because he showed me and that’s only fair. I pull open the waste band of my pants and let him peer down, He tells me he can’t see and offers to help. I hear my dad yelling my name. I Feel saved. I bolt out of the neighbor’s house crying, and I run home. My dad had been drinking again, my mom was at work. My dad wouldn’t listen to me, he pushes me up against the wall and hits me. He wants to make sure I know to go straight home after school. No one ever hears my story.

I’m 7. I spend the night at my grandparents’ house, I’m sitting on the bar stools spinning around and around. My grandfather pulls me off the stool and spanks me. I tell him that it didn’t hurt. He tells me that it’s not supposed to. My mom came to pick me up and I told her what happened. She was too scared to tell my dad. I never spent the night at my grandparents again, but I heard stories about how my sister, mother, aunt and uncle were all assaulted by him. I wonder how he can work at a school, and how he can get away with that.

I’m 13, I’m meeting up with some friends after school and we’re going to the park across the street. Me and one of the boys’ kiss, It’s not my first kiss. He exposes himself to me, and I do too. We’re just experimenting, and there are other kids there too. The next day at school he tells everyone we had sex. The guidance counselor finds out and calls my parents. My mom brings me to the doctor. I tell everyone it didn’t happen, but no one believes me. My dad is calling me a slut. The doctor tells my parents that I don’t have a hymen, but I also don’t have any signs that I’ve had sex recently. The doctor questions my parents but suggests that maybe I was born without a hymen. My parents still think I must have had sex. The bullying at school doesn’t ever stop, and no one ever addresses this “deformity” again.

I’m 15. I meet a boy on the internet, he tells me he’s 18 but I later find out he’s 21. I ran away from home with him, and then I got too scared to return home. The abuse from my dad was getting worse, my parents were fighting all the time, my sister was off to college, and I had been gone for over 30 hours. I was only a block away, but I was terrified. I told the boy I wanted to leave and go back to Massachusetts with him. Before we head out the police pull up. They ask me if anything happened with the guy, and I lie, I tell them no. even though they recover my bra from my jacket pocket I still tell them no. We didn’t have sex, so I didn’t think it mattered. The boy is arrested, he stole a car, he’s a registered sex offender. The police bring me home even though I tell them of the abuse, I beg them to lock me up instead of bringing me home. My father strips my room bare and turns it into what he called a jail cell. He feeds me my dinner under the door. He beats me relentlessly, for a month straight. I tell the school nurse, I tell the guidance counselor. I tell everyone. I don’t understand why no one is helping me. I don’t want to live there anymore.

I’m 16. My mom decided to throw me a sweet 16 birthday party. I had never had a birthday party work out before, this one isn’t much different. Some of her family comes, and this guy Joey. He’s 23 I guess. He’s going into the army in a week, but we spend a lot of time talking. We play mini golf, we go swimming, we go for hikes. Joey tells me that we’re not related. “It’s like 3rd cousins twice removed” I had never met him before, never heard of him, no one ever said anything, So I just assume he’s telling the truth. Joey convinces me to give him oral sex. He’s going to teach me how. The next day joey tries to rape me in the back seat of his car, and when I tell him I’m not ready he pulls a knife. He tells me the army will protect him, and no one will ever believe me if I say something. Turns out he was right. No one did believe me.

I’m 19 I just had my first baby with my first real boyfriend. We had fought a few times, but it was almost never physical. We lived in poverty, we were new parents’ things were stressful. One day we got in a fight and I decided to fight back. I don’t remember what happened. I woke up on the floor in a pile of my own vomit. A knife had been planted in my hand and he was holding the baby. He told the police I tried to stab him. In the time it took them to find me innocent he took the baby and left. We got evicted from our apartment, and I didn’t have anywhere to go. Because he did he got temporary custody of the baby. I didn’t get to see my baby for 8 years, and in the end, she didn’t know who I was, she didn’t remember my family, all she knew was that she had been abused by him, and that he told her she was just like me. And I hope to God she’s not like me at all.

I’m 25 both of my parents have passed away, and I’m homeless. I get into a few relationships because I’m literally sleeping on the streets, in gravel driveways, and in the woods. I’m scared to be alone. There’re no resources, there’s no money, there’s no food. I just don’t want to be alone. None of these relationships are good. I get threatened with knives, I get raped, I get spit on… Eventually I leave, I face homelessness alone because I have to get out. I move back to Vermont. I find WHBW, I go into shelter, and I start to tell them my story. I never get a chance to tell the whole thing. I’m just sick, I’m exhausted. I start writing on the walls not to offend anyone, but because I desperately need help and I don’t know how to ask for it. Unfortunately, this action gets me kicked out of shelter. I end up staying in a hotel instead; while the people from WHBW still help me. until I can get a job. I land a great job. A couple years later though, my job begins to trigger me, and I get sick again.

I’m 28 and I spend hours a day staring at the same spot on the wall. I don’t remember the last time I ate anything. I keep calling out of work. I’ve had this noose hanging in my Livingroom for weeks. Sometimes I wrap it around my neck just to practice. I have a bottle of pills that I’ve been saving. It’s a mixture of over the counter medications and old prescriptions. One day I call the national suicide helpline and they ask me if I have a plan. I did not, but this information told me that I needed to have a plan. So, I make one. I can’t work at all anymore, and I’m making excuses to not go. I decided I needed a therapist, and It wasn’t long after this that I was diagnosed with C-PTSD. I can’t work anymore I need to recover and heal. I start to.

I’m 29 and I meet this local guy. He’s rich, and he accepts that I’m going through some things, we have a great time. I’m working off and on at this point, but I’m struggling to keep my bills paid. He tells me that he has space and I can move in with him. I don’t want to be homeless again, so I agree. Unfortunately, though he doesn’t have space for any of my stuff. I leave everything behind, and I go. Things aren’t great, but I have place to stay, and food to eat, and no bills. My plan is to stay there long enough to heal, and long enough to save money to get a different place. He’s very controlling in that he’s always criticizing how I do things, If I cook the wrong way, or clean the wrong way, or dress the wrong way. If I walk too heavily across the floor. It’s constant. About 5 months in I can’t take it anymore, and I decided to fight back. (didn’t I learn this lesson before?)  I raise my voice once. He gets angry, and the look that comes over his face is one I’ve seen before. I call the steps hotline, but they tell me there’s no shelter space anywhere in the state. I have to try to wait it out. I feel safe enough for the time being. Except he heard the call. He kind of snapped. He has me face down on the bed, his arm is around my neck choking me, his knee is pushing into my left side ovary. I feel like I’m going to pass out, I look to my right and he has a big knife telling me he wants to “fucking kill me.” But suddenly he stops. He gets up, I hear him walk away and it gets quiet. I assume he left the room. I go to get up, my plan is to just turn around and run down the hallway and leave. I won’t take anything I’ll just leave. I get up to turn around and he hits me in the face with a mini baseball bat. The police woke me up, they were standing next to me and I was covered in blood. I turned my head and the guy was being taken away in handcuffs. I lost my entire top row of teeth that night, and now I owe hundreds of dollars for a denture that I don’t even like. I also got a bruised ovary. I speak with steps and go back to a hotel for a while. They help me get into a new apartment. I get section 8 and food stamps, I have a therapist I see a couple times a week. For the first time in a long time I feel safe enough.

Last September I turned 33. I’m still in that apartment. I still have that therapist. I’m still not working in a traditional sense, but holy crap am I healing? I create a program that teaches people to use writing as a way to heal from trauma. I call it “writing for healing” and it teaches the skills I used to heal myself. I start doing photography on the side. I look around. My journey isn’t yet complete. I’m still not 100% healed. But I’ve come so far from where I was. I looked in the mirror recently and I didn’t see the same person I’d always known. So, what if they didn’t believe me? So, what if they continued to hurt me? So, what if roomers still slip their lips.

I’m almost 34. I am strong. I’m brave. I’m alive. I’m independent. I’m courageous. I’m wise, I’m smart, I’m funny. I’m a good writer. And you know what? I’m more beautiful than anyone ever told me. I am here. And never again will I there, getting less than I deserve. I am a survivor.


Jasmine is a 30-something year old living in Burlington, Vermont. She's a life learner who's learned from both the books and the streets. Jasmine dreams of being a known writer. She also has experience working in education and psychiatry. Jasmine has C-PTSD and anxiety stemming from a history of abuse and neglect. It's become her mission to not only share her stories with other people, but to help people learn how to heal by sharing their own stories. Jasmine recently created a non profit program called "Writing For Healing" where she teaches survivors how to write, and heal from their own traumas. To find out more you can visit her blog at https://creativemindofjasmine.wordpress.com/ or her facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/CreativeMindOfJasmine. There you'll also find contact information, resources, and upcoming events.

From Bruised and Broken, to Strong and Free

Note: This is a real story written by a real person. Someone who has experienced domestic violence. Please be aware of potential triggers in this important piece.
To share your story,
click here

I just started my freshman year when I met, who I thought, was the man of my dreams. I was playing volleyball when I met him, we instantly clicked. We had so much in common, it was like he was a boy version of me. I could tell he was older but was not sure on his age at the time.

He invited me to come out and play league on his team, of course I said yes. After playing volleyball I learned that he was 30, exactly 12 years older than me. I was already hooked on him, that the age gap did not bother me one bit. I was okay having to face all the things people would say about it and I did not care because he made me so happy.

We spent all of our time together, opening my eyes to many new hobbies. We were inseparable, my life was perfect.

About six months into our relationship things changed.

He began to get angry over what I wore, who I followed on social media, and who I spent time with during the day. It started out as small arguments that involved yelling and name calling. As time went on it escalated, he began to abuse me. I can still remember all the moments I got hit, all the feelings I had and how all I wanted was for it to stop.

Many times, it was tearing my clothes or a shove to the floor, but as time went on it got worse. It became a belt to the back or being choked until I could barely breathe. However, every time this happened, I stayed. I stayed because I was in love. I felt he did not mean it and he always told me he was sorry that he would not do it again. Every time I believed him. Every time I went back to him. I could not get out of the cycle. I can remember having to go home to my parents and make up stories to explain the marks on my face and arms, the bruises on my legs and back, my busted lips, and the marks around my neck. I defended him in all I did, only to go back to being beaten.

Many people do not understand the severity of domestic violence or why people stay. Truly you cannot and never will be able to fully grasp the experience until you have lived it. Until you have went through nights crying wishing you would die, when you feel so low because you were constantly told you were not enough. I took all I could, I stayed no matter how much or how often the abuse was, until one day I could not stand anymore. I could not hear his voice calling me names anymore. I could not take his fist to my body anymore. I had reached my limit.

I decided that I had to stand up for myself. I had to break the silence. I filed an emergency protective order against him, only to have him violate it three times. He had gotten arrested and I had to go to court to set what the punishment would be for his violation. This was such a hard day. I sat as I watched this man, who I thought I knew and whom I had loved, plead guilty for violating his order. I was devastated that it had to come to that, but I knew I had to stay strong for myself. I struggled for the next two weeks until court again, I cried many nights feeling that I was making a mistake. In these times I thought back, to all the times I got abused. This is what kept me strong.

On the day of court, I was nervous to have to see him again. However, I felt support in all those with me and all those in my life who supported me. As we sat down in the court room, the judge read my last domestic violence statement aloud. It hurt to have to relive that moment, but it was worth every minute of the empowerment it brought me. On September 10, 2018 the court room found my abuser guilty. I am no longer held down by my abuser. I am free.

I stand stronger on the topic of domestic violence. No one, man or woman, shall have to endure a life of abuse. You are stronger than they say you are. Many people won’t understand but know that many people will. Everyone can speak of what went on, but you are the one who felt every moment of the pain. Life may be tough at first, it may seem like you’re losing it, but the days get better. You will move past this, you will grow whole again. Never underestimate yourself, because you are brave and can-do amazing things. Stay strong and break the silence against domestic violence.

I have learned that I am not okay right now. I struggle many days and it is horrible, but I also know one day I will look back and realize how powerful I am. I am not afraid to tell my story because I am not alone. I stand strong on my own and I stand strong with all the victims of domestic violence. I am a survivor of domestic violence.

“Actions always will speak louder than words.”

I am a survivor and I will not be defeated.

Note: This is a real story, written by a real person. Please be aware of potential triggers in this important piece. To share your story, click here.

I am a survivor and I will not be defeated.

I have always dreamed of the picture perfect white picket fence marriage. I am easy going, loving and just wanted the love that I seen my father give my mother, to me it was perfect. My parents got divorced when I was 14 and it crushed my world. I began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. It helped mend my pain and of course hanging with the wrong crowd. I had been blessed with two loving parents and there was no reason for this behavior but I was so angry, hurt, confused and pretty much screwed up in the head from the divorce. I skipped school every other day and eventually ended up dropping out.

My abuse:

Thrown threw picture windows, pushed out of moving vehicles, beat so bad I have been in 3 comas, black eyes, broken jaw, knocked out teeth, raped, strangled, thrown threw walls, punched so hard I flew out the back door and knocked out unconscious, kicked in the face, had my head stomped on, knifed, spit on, urinated on, had a boa constrictor put on my neck, told no one loved me and to take a bottle of pills and od'd. Locked in the bathroom for hours with no food. I was told what to wear who I could talk to, when I had to be home. I had no friends. If I was a minute late or if a dish was in the sink I dearly paid for it. Kicked out of my own home. I can go on and on but I’m pretty sure you got the picture. I was treated unhuman.

2 times, had to have two legal name changes and have mine and my son’s social security number changed. Mentally abused to the point of being institutionalized.  Moved probably 50 times. Suffer from severe anxiety, depression, PTSD, social anxiety.

My abuse started at a young age from a family member. I would get beat on an every other day basis. I was kicked in the stomach and thrown down the stairs. I also was body slammed. I will never forget that wicked laugh that came out of his mouth.

I guess I can say I became accustomed to this kind of lifestyle. So now instead of searching for that perfect picket fence lifestyle I seeked out men that were bad boys. I mean heck if your own family member will beat you half to death.

I am only going to share two experiences with you but not to full detail, for they are too graphic.

So my first relationship I was supposed to get married at 16. He got extremely drunk I tried to leave our apartment, WELL he wasn’t having that. He told me I would not leave there alive.

He grabbed me by the back of my hair and beat my face into the wall, I tried to run he grabbed me by the neck and held me up against the wall and ripped the phone cord out of the wall and wrapped it around my neck and picked me up off the ground. I literally was gasping for air, choking. I thought for sure that night I was going to die. He then dropped me to the ground spit on me and said “Your not worth it” I again tried to run he threw a chair at me, I fell to the ground and he jumped on top of me and repeatedly slapped me and punched and again grabbed my hair and ripped out half my hair. This abuse went on for at least 8 hours that night. He finally passed out and I was able to escape. This went on for 2 years.

Now mind you every relationship or dating encounter in between had been mentally and physically abusive. But I will take you to the one that completely changed me.

It only got worse. Years went by and I had moved on with my life. So my sons father passed away of a tragic death. Once again I was feeling lost hurt confused. I had no problem jumping back into the drug life. I had met another bad boy. I immediately moved him in. At this point I had zero self esteem. I had been told for years I was a slut, ugly, stupid, a cheater, never would amount to anything etc.

I worked two jobs while he stayed home and drank at my expense. He would have violent rages. First a slap, then a punch then a I’m sorry.

He destroyed my belongings. He would go to jail. But I always took him back. Until the night he beat me senseless. He threw a chair through my big screen T.V and began to chase me and continually punched me in the face until I could no longer feel it. I was able to get up and run into my son’s room. He punched the door in half and began bashing my head into my son’s wooden dresser. Cops called he went to jail. Now I want you to know after every beating I would relocate, put my son in a new school and through trauma. The abuse consist of black eyes, busted out teeth, bruises everywhere on a regular basis, constantly being stalked, accused of having sex with my own father!!! I was kicked out of every place I lived. The beatings with him were on a regular basis. This went on for 8 years.

So for 34 years of my life. But after all of this I still get up and keep trying. I guess what I’m trying to say is I know now there is a way out, they make you believe you are nothing. If they can’t have you no one else will. The endless sorry’s, they’ll change, they’ll get help, quit druggin and drinking it’s all lies. Life is a gift. We have choices. I know it seems like you can never get out. Endless Order of Protections. But believe you me you can. You are not someone’s punching bag. If you have kids and you think it doesn’t affect them, it does!  You have to realize you are something in this world, even if you have to run change your name. Do what you got to do. We are only given one life, why let someone take away your dreams your happiness. Today I live alone, I choose not to date. It gets lonely sometime but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wish I could share my whole story to maybe change someone’s life. I hope whoever reads this and is in a bad situation makes that move and leaves. Please get out now before your abuser kills you.

May God Bless You, My Prayers are with all that are suffering.

Nobody is here to protect you, dear

The physical violence I went through was difficult to overcome somehow I am done with it today.

I was in my 5th standard. I have always been a multitasker since my childhood. I have learnt dancing, singing and I used to make drawings too. So my parents seeing me indulging in the art work decided to appoint a teacher.

So I have been admitted to a school where children of my age or older come to give their talent a platform. The first couple of weeks were going great. My teacher was so happy with me, he used to tell my parents that they came to the right place else my talent had never been invented. My teacher used to scold me at times when the work I have been told to do was not done in a week or so. It was okay then when he asked me to stop coming to art school because am wasting my time as am good enough for nothing. He even told my parents. He took a chance knowing that I am afraid of my mother. She used to beat me for everything wrong I have done.

I was an introvert kind of a girl, I think I still am. So, the day he told me I was beaten up by my mother. Then after a week I went to the art school, and that my final exams were on so I couldn't complete the task he has given to me. So my mother before the class started told the teacher that I have not completed the task that's why he can do whatever he wants with me in front of all the students. I felt that was hell insulting but I kept quiet. Then she came back home. So he started checking my homework and suddenly out of nowhere he grabbed my hair and slapped on my cheeks.

I didn't have a time to say anything he continued to beat me up. Then he told me that why have I put brown color in the sky instead of black. I said him sorry. But he then slapped my nose then go started bleeding. But it wasn't enough he slapped me again then he just pushed me on the floor and I was hit by a table. That took place in front of everybody. I was scared I was ashamed of myself I was crying and nothing stopped him. He continued to beat me. I was crying like hell I was screaming but he kept doing it for an hour. Then my mom came he told he also to beat me. My mom and I came back. The entire night I couldn't sleep and from that day have a phobia of men.

 Whenever a man or boy comes close to me I start yelling, screaming, hurting myself. It is still affecting me in my daily I am unable to get up with it. I am still trying hard to calm the battle down but I think I should give up. I don't know if I’LL ever get married because as well as me it is going to end the other person's life. I don't know how to cope up with this fear. 

So my message to all women out there please stand by yourself for yourself. Because nobody is here to protect you dear. 

They only get worse

So I met my ex husband about 4 years ago he lived with his sister that happened to live right down the street from my aunt.

When we first hung out the red flags were there but I chose to ignore them I'm not the person to judge anyone from there past. I mean he came off sweet loving, And funny ....... so almost instantly we started dated I would say maybe 3 months after that we actually moved in with each other.

And it went down hill from there.

I lived with a roommate at the time and he did not like it that we were like sisters eventually I chose to take his side and we stopped being friends I have lost a lot of friendships because of him!

I worked 12 hour shifts nights and while I was at work is when the cheating started he cheated so many times before we got married I lost count and still I did not leave ..so eventually we finally get married and the day we got married he cheated on me and did not come back until the next morning.

So I would say maybe 1 year into our marriage the abuse started he started doing drugs really heavily and acting crazy ..... I remember the first time he hit me open handed he gave me a black eye and I had to go to work like that I felt so embarrassed smh and he apologized and I forgave and stayed...the black eyes became normal ...... he actually broke my cheek bone, busted my head open I literally looked like a monster I still look in the mirror at myself like why did you put yourself through this I don’t even look the same!

It was getting to where I was not sleeping my face was always beat up I lost my job and I lost my children my family stopped talking to me and I fell into a really dark place that I was afraid to crawl out of .... I remember  a time he pulled a gun and pointed it to my head and I remember feeling so scared like asking why he was doing this smh he hit me onto of my head with the gun and literally left a hole in my head I was dizzy and barley could stand up and blood pouring down my face and I'm telling him I need to go to the emergency room and he looks at me with cold eyes and says I don’t care DIE. SMH

I just could not wrap my head around how someone that claimed they love you was so evil towards you.

He would always choke me until I almost passed out...I always knew when it was going to be a bad night cause he would tell me go into the room and I new what was going to happen ... I fell into a depression to the point I was praying to GOD to just kill me cause I could not go through anymore abuse, torture or pain I lost my kids my family there was nothing to live for.

I literally lost everything ......but one day I woke up and I was just done I was done being hurt,  abused and used I actually gained the courage to leave now mind you I left and came back 500 times before i actually left ...... and i never went back i remember i showed up to my mother's front door and she was i tears my children was in tears that i made that decision now he was mad still trying to contact me and threaten me saying he could kill me and get away with it smh

I actually stayed with my mother I got a little job. And started building my relationship with my children again until I made it to where I am now I have my own car my own place .... I have my kids with me I'm at a place where I thought I would never be I have came along way.

And I'm so proud of myself now I still have bad dreams and backflashes of what I been through and it still bothers me but it's a everyday process! I just hope my story helps other women to find the courage to walk away men like him never change they only get worse until they kill you. Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to tell my story I really appreciate it 

Becoming more who I am supposed to be everyday

Note: This is is a real story written by someone who experienced - and survived - domestic violence. Please note potential triggers in this powerful piece.

When I was 18 I couldn't have been more excited to start my adult life. I was in my first semester in college, everything was great, until one June night the guy I was seeing broke up with me so my favorite cousin invited me to a party her bf was having because she wanted me to meet his friend. well, that was the beginning of a recipe for disaster. he was tall tan and covered in tattoos, my dream man. so much so I was willing to overlook the fact he was 16 years older than me. in fact, he made it seem exciting, flaunted money, had his own house, took me on vacations swept me off my feet. before I knew it I was moving in with him in our very own house. the holidays rolled around and we looked like ken and barbie wrapping presents and hanging lights. then things started to unravel. little by little things he said started to not make sense. bills stopped being paid. fights became frequent. to cheer me up he bought me to kittens and they did for a while. the first glimpse I saw of the devil was when he got sick and had to spend a week in the hospital, which caused the mask he wore to start to slip. back home from the hospital things were getting bad he started abusing our cats and making me watch. then on January 16th, the man I fell in love with never came home. one petty argument turned into me on the floor screaming in pain, telling myself this can't be happening as I looked up to see my prince charming standing over me with his fist drawn back. I spent the next 3 weeks lying to my family. telling them I fell down the icy front steps, every time I was questioned about the bruises and the limp. idk why I stayed, shock I suppose but as the months went by and the beatings, stranglings, and intimidation got worse I started to lose who I was. he was an evil person who did unspeakable things to me. i"m not sure what finally lit my fire back, the daughter he had I didn't know about, the day he killed ur cats or the day he stared in my eyes while strangling me but something finally clicked. honestly I thought of my dad and what he would think he knew what he was doing to me and that thought, that reminder, this is not who I am pushed me to tell my sisters and with that, a month of escape plans ensued. May 9th 2013 was the day he finally beat me so bad he saved me. the cable men coming to fix our television came at the best and worst time to hear my screams and call the police. just like that, he was being taken to jail and I was off to the hospital. it hurt like hell to watch the man I loved to be taken away it was the pain of a breakup times a thousand. I honestly don't know where I found the strength to press charges, get a restraining order, and file for restitution, god knows it wasn't easy, but I like to accredit it to god and my family. I experienced every emotion possible during those few months of court dates, continuations, and trails, but in the end, he spent 2 years in prison for the damage he caused me. Now here I am finally becoming my self again. with a hell of a survivor story. those 5 years damn near killed me, I suffered from depression, PTSD, and drug addiction, but nothing and no one can take my strength. I'm currently 5 years a survivor of domestic violence, 2 years sober from heroin, and becoming more who I am supposed to be everyday. 

Happy Ending.

If you told me a few years ago I'd be getting services from Steps to End Domestic Violence, I wouldn't have believed you. 

But I am, and I'm so grateful that they are available to me and the nearly 2,000 others who benefit each year from their free services. 

In addition to helping them provide services, your support for Steps to End Domestic Violence says something about you - it says that you are not okay with violence, you believe survivors and you want to help people take back the control that was taken from them. 

When you donate to Steps to End Domestic Violence, you're letting the world know where you stand. 

The nonviolence movement is strong and getting stronger. Together we can make a difference. 

Act now and feel good about getting involved. 

The Journey is Mine.

After calling the Steps to End Domestic Violence hotline, I felt listened to, but I needed more to secure housing after leaving my abuser.

Walking down the hall towards their office in Burlington, I felt nervous - and excited. They seemed like a good fit for me. And once I was introduced to the advocate who would be speaking with me, I got the feeling things would be okay. 

We'd met just minutes ago but it was like talking to an old friend. They listened, asked questions and made it clear that I was in charge. 

The journey is mine - Steps to End Domestic Violence is there to help me find my way. 

Because of your support, about 350 people each year are able to get help with emergency housing. This is so important because leaving an abuser is often one of the most dangerous times for those experiencing domestic violence.

Donate now to help make a difference. 

After calling, the weight of the world left my shoulders.

After a friend told me about the hotline, I must have stared at my phone for an hour. What would I say? What would they say? I didn't want to be judged any more and it was all I could think of. 

Once I dialed, though, things felt better. The advocate listened, understood and said they were happy that I called. What?! If they were happy, I was ecstatic. Just talking about my abuse felt great, I'd never told anyone the whole story. 

Did you know more than 60 people call the Steps to Domestic Violence hotline for the first time each month?

People like me, who aren't sure what to do, where to go, what comes next. Advocates possess an amazing tool belt, they connect us to resources and programs to help us in our journeys, supporting us the whole way. 

When you support Steps to End Domestic Violence, you're supporting me. Because of you, I'm empowered to talk about my abuse and I'm working to take the steps I need to turn the page on my next chapter. 

Will you donate today and help make a difference in my life? 

Tainted Love

NOTE: The following was written by a real person about their experiences with domestic violence. Please note potential triggers in this important piece.

For as long as I can remember, my concept of love was tainted. Love was presented to me as something that was given with conditions and impossible expectations. After years of confusion I began to replace love with codependency. The grips of codependency brought me to my knees long before I indulged in any mood/mind altering substance. Before I ever picked up a drink/drug, my addictive nature preyed upon validation and approval. Maybe traumas and the environment of my childhood propelled my incessant need to please, or maybe I was always a glutton for punishment. At the root of almost every human heart is the desire to love and to be loved. I was no exception, in fact I clung to validation for survival. From an early age, I never learned how to validate myself. Perhaps it was the lack of emotional safety I experienced or maybe it was the fundamental inability to deal with life on life’s terms. Either way, I was spiraling, out of control, with no safety net in sight.

My first experience with domestic violence started at a very young age. My stepmother was bipolar and untreated. Her angry outbursts were unpredictable and seemingly unprovoked. I could misplace a dish in the dishwasher and war was raging. I vividly remember my father having to step in between her attacks, on too many occasions. In all honesty, the emotional abuse I endured was far worse than any mark or bruise left behind. During the most impressionable adolescent years of my life, I was constantly reminded “you just need to be the adult, you know how she is.”  I wore the “adult child” title like a badge of honor. I was reminded that she was not my biological mother and she did not sign up to raise me. As you can imagine, this caused an ungodly amount of confusion and ravished my self esteem. I became the unwanted stepdaughter and I wasted years of my life attempting to fit into the ever changing box she wanted me to fit in. I lived in complete and utter turmoil, always feeling that I was less than and I acted as if.

Fast forward to the day my first abuser, my stepmom, passed away unexpectedly. I was absolutely wrecked and the only viable solution: oblivion. I crossed over the threshold and my drug addiction had me by the throat. I walked through hell and back, dancing with opiates along the way, and completely delusional. I found solace in chaos. Opiate detox was my reprieve, perhaps I was a glutton for punishment. This became the theme years to come, until the fear of change was far less agonizing than the pain I was experiencing.

I was finally willing to get help for my addiction but I had no idea that beneath the self medicating, was a scared little girl. A year sober, and I met him. He was charming, attractive, spontaneous, and seemed to be everything I wanted. Truly sober, for the first time ever, I really had no concept of what was best for me. My shallow standards made it easy for him to enter in and wreck my world. I’ve always been the giver and I’ve always gravitated towards the takers. Again, a glutton for punishment I assume. Infatuation set in, and I was all in. My entire world became him. We never spent any time talking about anything other than him. The first red flag probably would’ve been the night I wanted to leave his house and he threw my keys at me. I remember it was 12am and dark in the room, barely missing my eye, I was a bloodied mess. He didn’t believe he hurt me until he turned on the light and saw the carnage. A quick trip to the ER (of course he tagged along to be sure I complied with the lie we orchestrated) and a swollen black eye, I concluded he really didn’t mean to hit me in the eye. I remember him apologizing but always ending the apology with some form of “but you or because you”. He always wiped his hands clean from any sort of accountability. Yet again, another red flag. We were maybe 8 months into the relationship when the verbal abuse started. Slowly but surely then came the financial abuse and crazy control manipulations. Physical pain would eventually subside but the emotional trauma scarred me. I remember being 9 months pregnant, scrubbing bathroom floors to bring in some income and avoid the abuse. Just like the 15 year old girl trying to earn love through obtaining impossible perfection from my stepmother, I was sure I could win him over if I could just play my part. I was wrong.

As time progressed, I realized I was in a relationship with the male version of my stepmother. The abuse progressed, as it always does, from pushing me, to blows to the body, to eventually breaking my ribs. Want to hear the insanity of abuse? I still didn’t leave, I actually lied to my family and all of my coworkers. I told everyone I fell on my daughter’s toy. We moved into a new place and per usual, the ups and downs ebbed and flowed like the sweet but piercingly cold mountain stream. The abuse continued and the severity of the total demoralization was incomprehensible. I couldn’t separate delusion from reality, just like when I was actively using drugs/alcohol. So here I was, a year and a half sober and living in mirroring insanity.

The turning point… I can remember it vividly, as if it happened yesterday. We had one of our very common explosive arguments but this time the kids woke up and walked into the room. He had me on the ground with his hands around my throat and my kids were screaming for him to stop. Something broke inside of me. I got up, ignoring his desperate pleas, grabbed my kids, left the house, and called the cops. God moved my feet, just like the day I got sober. He was arrested and spent the night in jail. CPS got involved (because the children were present) and demanded we separate.

For the first time in my life, I pulled myself up off the floor and I met fear face to face. I valiantly walked through the fire, but not without the help of the people who loved me the most. I told everyone the truth about what had been going on and I swore to myself that I would never go back. We have children together so this relationship continues to be a work in progress. I have set boundaries and I hold firm to the consequences when he doesn’t follow suit. I believe the phrase “don’t let your past come back to haunt you” was coined from situations like this one. The truth is, unhealed trauma resurfaces and from my experience I kept seeking out what I was familiar with: abusive chaos. The life I live today is so liberating. Breaking a grueling generational curse, I make decisions today that harvest the future I want for myself and my kids. I continue to seek out therapy for my PTSD, addiction, and trauma. I am constantly surrounding myself with women that have my best interest at heart. I am almost 3 years sober today.  I have walked through the fire with dignity and grace. If you are a victim of domestic violence, don’t give up. Don’t stop reaching out to the people that love you. Anonymously reach out to the resources on this site. Visit your local battered women’s shelter. Never give up, you are beautiful.

The author of this piece wishes to include this link with their story: 

Giving Tuesday is almost here!

Move over Cyber Monday - We celebrate the day you can really feel good about... Giving Tuesday!

This national day of giving puts you - the donor - in control, choosing which causes you want to support. We want to tell you where your donation goes when you give to Steps to End Domestic Violence. 

This year, we're focusing on PREVENTION! 

Did you know that our Education and Prevention Coordinator visits area schools, business and community groups to talk about the ways in which people can recognize domestic and dating violence, better preparing them to identify it in their own lives and the lives of others? This knowledge is invaluable, as helping a friend or family member could potentially save their lives. 

In addition, by starting with youth, we are able to help individuals grow up with a true understanding of what a healthy relationship is, what it means to be safe in the digital age, to know the role technology may play into aspects of power and control in their relationships, how to talk about domestic and dating violence and - we hope - to over time erase taboos so that those experiencing domestic violence don't feel isolated and misunderstood. 

When you choose to support us on November 27, you're telling the world that it's time to end domestic violence - you're taking a stand.

Pssst - You don't have to wait until Giving Tuesday to donate! Do it now on our special Giving Tuesday page.

Young, Scared, and Trapped

NOTE: The following was written by a real person. A real survivor. 
Please note potential triggers in this important piece.

I was 19 years old and had the world at my fingertips.  I came from the picture perfect family… two cars in the garage, two successful working parents, nice house, a dog, and two children, a boy and a girl.  I was the girl. I had no reason to be attracted to a “bad boy” or someone I knew would break my heart but I did it anyways.  When I turned 18 I took my first drink and that is what started a long road of alcoholism for me.  I hated the way it tasted but loved the way it made me feel.  I felt outgoing, accepted, fun, pretty, and confident. When in actuality I was the opposite of these things but was just hiding behind the veil of alcohol.

When I met him I had just started experimenting with drugs.  I was really good at playing the part of the perfect daughter and my parents had no idea I was drinking or doing drugs.  I guess you could say I fell in with the wrong crowd and every single decision I had made up until that point led me to the desperate place I was the day I met him.  I was broken, insecure, had no idea who I was, and was seeking approval from everyone around me. He was 23 so he was legal to buy us alcohol and was the “cool kid” in our little group.  I wanted a piece of that importance in my life. Someone who was better than me to love me so I wouldn’t feel like I was completely worthless. I fell in line… I played the part and became someone I knew he would be interested in.  I changed everything about myself to get him, and I did.

We drank, we partied, and we fought.  A couple of weeks after we had started dating while heavily intoxicated he dropped me off at my house and came in arguing with me.  He slapped me across the face and went flying across the room onto the couch. He took off out of my house and my mom came running downstairs to see what had happened.  Needless to say my family did not want me to ever see him again but after that night I got really good at hiding the bruises and acting as if everything was ok.

One fateful night I could no longer hide it and my friends saw the abuse first hand.  We had a party at his house and all of my friends from work came. We were drinking and having a great time… then the night turned in a absolute nightmare.  I was talking to one of my guy friends in the kitchen and he came in accusing me of cheating on him with my friends and pushed me into the counter and punched me in the face.  My friend tried to pull him off of me and got hit himself. He reached around and grabbed a large butcher knife and started chasing me around the house trying to stab me.

At this point the abuse was no longer a secret and I could not hide it anymore.  As he chased me around the house with the knife chaos broke loose and everyone was trying to get out of there unharmed.  He threw me to the ground and I my head smacked into the concrete and I felt the hot blood spilling out of me. I thank God everyday for my friends who made sure I got out of there safely and pulled me off of the floor in time for me to escape with my life.  I went to the hospital to treat my wounds. The police showed up to tell me they had arrested him and took statements from my friends and I.

He was charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and prosecuted by the state.  I was free from him but still in the grips of the trauma that had happened over the last year.  I was away at college at the time and could not completely abandon my studies to get inpatient treatment but my drinking and drug use got much worse to avoid feeling the trauma of what had happened to me.  I knew if I did not deal with these emotions it would run me for the rest of my life. My mom watched me in this downward spiral and stepped in to find me help. I started in a 90 day outpatient program with intensive therapy to deal with my trauma and substance abuse.

It was incredibly difficult and painful but it taught me how to cope and heal from the trauma of the abuse.  I am not going to lie there are still triggers that hit me out of nowhere and take me back those moments, but I now have the coping skills to process those emotions and work through it.  Through working a program of recovery in AA I am now healthy, happy, and sober and no longer need to numb my feeling with substances!

Was this difficult?  Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely yes!  By working through these events in my life I was able to break the cycle.  Now my passion has become helping other women who have been or still are where I was at.  You are worth living the beautiful that you deserve!

Where do I even Start….

NOTE: The following was written by a real person. A real survivor. 
Please note potential triggers in this important piece.

I guess it all started when we moved from New York City to New Jersey. I thought so highly of the move. I was going to start at a new school, my old friend went there so I assumed we would hang out and I’d make all new friends and it would be my clean start. I was very wrong. I had no friends at my new school, nobody talked to me and I was more alone than ever. I hated it in New Jersey. I loved the house, loved the area, but felt miserable. Due to being so alone I called up an old friend whom I hadn’t talked to in quite some time due to a fight we got into.

She and myself started talking as if nothing happened and fell into easily hanging out regularly again. One night in Mid January of 2014, Just after my 17th birthday we decided to meet up with another girl we knew. That night was with numerous people, one of them being him.

He was everything I thought was attractive back then. He dressed cool, talked cool, and had alcohol + drugs that I was more than happy to take. The rest of that night everyone just hung out and had fun. The timeline of this story is all a little fuzzy so exact dates and the order of events may not be 100% accurate but I will try to keep it as close as I can remember.

It is now February and I have been seeing him more regularly. Sleeping over, drinking, partying, and had a makeout session on February 1 during the Superbowl. I was alone with him on the night of February 5, 2014 when he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was over the moon. I’ve never had a real boyfriend before. I went home the next day so happy and eager to see him again. I stopped going to school and only wanted to see him. He lived in New York City, drank, was fun - what more could I of asked for? I quickly decided that living in New Jersey wasn’t cutting it for me anymore and packed my bags and left while my father was at work. At first everything was great, until one night.

It is march now & my period is late. I didn’t want to worry him so I went out on my own and tried to steal a pregnancy test which came out positive. Having no money and being scared, I told him and asked my father to transfer money to buy another test just to make sure. I now know there are clinics which test you for free but I was young and didn’t know about resources. He, knowing that I now had money in my account wanted to buy pizza so he told me to get the cheapest one. After buying the test (with two in a pack) he was furious that he didn’t get what he wanted, pushed me against the wall in the doorway of our building and began strangling me. This was the first incident. I was so confused. Why did I buy two tests when he wanted food? Whats wrong with me? I automatically blamed myself, went upstairs and begged my father to send more money so he could eat.

After this incident it all starts to blur together. Things like that would happen to often I don’t even remember them all. There was an incident in the bathroom where he hit my head against the sink. I came out and it turned into a big fight with me, my friend and him. We all woke up the next morning with blood everywhere, furniture broken, but nobody spoke about it. Times when he would strangle me to the point I lost my vision and eventually come to lying on the floor with him standing over me with this look. If anyone has ever been in an abusive relationship, they know what look I’m speaking of. There is no compassion, no love, no safety when staring into those empty eyes. Strangling was his go to method of abuse. I remember once being strangled and coming to with my dog lying on my lap looking so scared. There were times I had bruises everywhere, where he would be hitting me in front of his friends but nobody spoke up thinking it wasn't their business. Not to mention the verbal abuse I would encounter. Being told i’m no good, I’m a horrible person, nobody will love me.

One night I remember is when we all went to Niagara. Him, another couple and myself. It started off great as usual until he started to get upset at me then at my friend. I remember fighting in the hotel washroom and he began to strangle me. This is when she jumped on his back attempting to stop him. My memory jumps to her being on the bed and him flipping the mattress over, hauling her into the air. From there it jumps to me running down the street in Niagara as she tells me to run and hide. The next morning I was in the hotel room with him while the others stayed in the 24 hour Denny’s. I know there was a point we all were locked out, a point she climbed over a fence and cut herself, and a lot more but like I said, everything's a blur.  

One day his ex came back into town from Delaware and he wanted to see her. She came to our house and the whole time they were attached to each other leaving me to feel vulnerable and helpless. Being upset at the situation I went to shower and made him come into the bathroom with me just to make her upset. One day we all got a hotel and she was there. She stated that she needed to buy a lighter so he went with her, leaving me alone for over an hour. Afterwards we went to my mother's house and I was waiting in the bathroom while he kept talking to his ex. I yelled at her telling her to get out and she did - he & I walking her of course. I later found out that he cheated on me while looking for the lighter.

We would frequently visit my mother who absolutely adored him. She praised him because I loved him, so did she. We would all go out together and have a great night but when we went separate ways it wasn’t as much fun. At this point it must be May 2014 and we are living in a new apartment after being evicted. We are all doing drugs and I was talking and talking and talking. The next morning he was furious at me, screaming saying were over. Being over was not an option for me. Where would I live? I couldn’t go back to New Jersey. The whole morning I was in tears crying so hard I couldn't breathe. This lasted the majority of the day. It went in waves where he wasn’t angry then extremely angry. Nothing I said was right. Till this day, I will never know why he was so mad. Living in that apartment lasted a total of 17 days. He threw a party which led to us being evicted once again.

Having nowhere to live we decided to stay with my mother. It was a studio apartment with one bed we all shared + the dog. One night near the end of June 2014 his sister was throwing an after prom party in a hotel. We all were having a fun time, he was extremely intoxicated and everyone went home besides us. He fell asleep on the couch and when I went to wake him up he attacked me. I guess I blacked out after that because the next thing I remember is waking up on the bed with blood stained sheets around me. My body was sore and my eyes were hard to open. When I made it to the bathroom I couldn’t believe what I saw in the mirror. I had two black eyes, bruises covering my whole body and a swollen mouth. There was blood throughout my hair, under my nose, my mouth. When he woke up he asked me what happened and I told him the last thing I remembered. His sister later told me that someone came back to the room and heard crying and yelling but couldn’t get inside the hotel room.

After that incident we ended up living with my father for a bit until finding another apartment under a hair salon Mid July 2014. While living there a few occurrences stand out for me. One is where we were screaming at each other and I thought dying would be better than living like this anymore so I attempted to slit my throat. One morning my father promised to send money but only sent half which drove him crazy. He threw me on the floor and began stomping on me and kicking my head. I tried to get up over and over but he just continued to stomp or push me forward until I landed on my face. This happened for hours. I told him I would get the money but he didn’t care at this point. Eventually I convinced him to let me go switch the laundry from the place down the street and ran as fast as I could onto the bus. While sitting on the bus his sister called me saying how horrible of a person I am for leaving and making him stuck with the laundry. She called me so many terrible things and convinced me I’m horrible if I don’t return so I did. As for what happened the rest of the day, I don’t know.

That was another house we didn’t stay at long. He convinced himself that moving to Florida would be a better idea and we packed up and left once again. I felt like I couldn’t breathe without him. That was the longest week of my life without a doubt. I sold my laptop and anything else I could find, begged my sister for money and flew out to Florida. I convinced myself I could go to school there and we will live happily ever after but issues arose with his father, fights broke out between us, and we both flew back to New York City mid September 2014.

We stayed with my father at this point until late October 2014 until we moved into our Dufferin apartment. It was gross and small. While living here I remember locking myself in the bathroom terrified of him, being strangled on the bed, having to pee into an empty liquor bottle because he wouldn’t let me use the washroom. Any name you can be called, he called me and any bit of self worth I had was taken from me, yet I couldn’t live without him. Isn’t that how it always is though? They convince you that you are nothing without them.

March 2015 he was arrested for assaulting a transit driver and having a concealed weapon. He spent a week in jail for this and my father was the one who bailed him out. We went to go see a friend a few weeks after he was out and that night is when I was dragged by my hair on the sidewalk, pushed onto the bus and hit across the face, leaving my body on the bus floor. Tyler told the bus driver to call the police but she just told him to stop. Another witness who wasn’t phased by me being hurt.

It’s hard trying to piece together the timeline for when these happened. I am getting to the point where I cannot give you a specific month for these occurrences. I know there was a time when he strangled me at my mother’s house, another time we got into an argument at my fathers which left me with a chipped tooth from being punched in the mouth with a ring on, a fight that left me so vulnerable I sliced my leg open with a pair of scissors which resulted in 25 stitches. Being strangled up against a door with a key lock, sliding down to free myself and getting a cut from shoulder to hip across my back which left me with a scar,  kissing which led to him biting down super hard and leaving me with a hole right above my chin, being strangled in the washroom in New Jesey , being pressed between the door and wall until I couldn’t breathe, should I go on?

December 2015 we were living in Scarborough and were having a pretty ok night. We decided to have sex and during it he looked down at me and said your going to die tonight and began strangling me. I somehow got out of his hold and ran to the washroom. He came to say sorry and I got into the bedroom and locked the door. He banged and banged on it for an hour until it was knocked down. The next morning when the people upstairs asked what had happened, he explained that I fell asleep with it locked. Silly me.

January 2016 he moved away to Florida for good and I moved out on my own. This was the end of our relationship. Although I kept in contact with him and we spoke daily we agreed not to date. July 2016 was the final time he hurt me. I went to visit him in Florida and the whole time he was rude to me because we weren’t together and he felt hurt. I booked my plane ticket home because I couldn’t deal with how he was treating me. When he found out I was leaving he pushed me into the closet and strangled me until I lost vision. His dad came running in and I was crying. I got on the plane the next day and haven’t seen him since.

Although we spoke on the phone I never saw him again. It took me a very long time to cut all strings with him and move on. I know people are thinking “ why would you stay for so long?” and honestly, I can’t give a simple answer for that. I didn’t want to live with my father, I wanted to be loved. He convinced me that nobody would ever love me and I would be alone without him. He made sure I was dependent on him and that I couldn’t be on my own. He took me to places and we had a great time. I thought that I was at fault. If I didn’t say that I wouldn’t of got hurt.

It has taken me over two years since him leaving to be able to even speak about what happened during our relationship. I still flinch if someone moves to fast, and cry if someone raises their voice towards me. I am relearning my worth and to be honest, I will always have a piece of doubt in me because of him. I will always think back and wonder how it could of been better, what I did, why was I so hard to love. Why didn’t this happen to other girls ? I must be the issue. My mother passed away while we were together and I think somewhere within me held on to him because he knew her. How could I be with someone who didn’t know my mom?

I now have an amazing boyfriend who bends over backwards for me. He is my sunshine on all of my cloudy days and I am grateful that he loves me. I convinced myself I wasn’t capable of being loved. I did a lot of bad things towards myself physically & emotionally. I will never be who I was before this and I’m learning that it's okay. I have to grow from my experiences and don’t think any less of myself.

Other times stuff happened out of Timeline
* One night we are at his friend’s house and just like always a fight starts. I was pushed down the stairs and when I came back inside even his friend said he saw the look on his face. The empty eyes look. The next morning we’re outside screaming and fighting and he pushes me down the front stairs again and starts stepping on me. A neighbor witnessed this and called the police. When they showed up I freaked out saying don’t take him from me. This resulted in a restraining order, anger management courses and many court dates. Even that wasn’t enough to keep us apart. I was going to marry him, I was sure of it.

* Punched me in the face with his ring on and chipped my teeth

I feel safe.

NOTE: The following is a journal entry from a real person. A real survivor. 
Please note potential triggers in this important piece.

I feel safe. That is not a feeling that I have had in so long. But now I feel safe. I no longer have to hide in a bedroom praying someone won’t wake up. I no longer worry about leaving my house because I knew I would come home to be beaten. I no longer get called terrible names and hit because I needed to stay late at work. I no longer worry that my daughter would be his next target because he knows she means the world to me. I no longer worry that my stuff will be destroyed, pictures ripped up, or sentimental items thrown out. I finally feel safe.


I grew up in an abusive home. I was called names and abused. Looking back I think this is a big reason why I didn’t leave sooner. Abuse was normal to me. He showed me what I thought was love and I craved it. He made me think that I would never be loved as much as he loved me.  It never starts out as abuse in the beginning. Everything was perfect, too perfect. I still remember the first day he hit me. It was in front of his mom. He held me down on the ground and kept hitting me until I was able to get away. I should have stayed away, but of course there were the roses, chocolates, and I am sorry. He blamed it on drinking, he didn’t know what he was doing and he never wanted to hurt me. I believed him because I thought he loved me. And then several months later it would happen again.


I am not sure when it shifted from every few months, to every few weeks, to every few days, and then almost daily. The hitting turned into punching or an extension cord whip. It turned into putting lighter fluid on me and trying to set me on fire. It turned into my fault and not his. I let this go on for eight years. Eight years of being fearful of everything. Eight years of hiding objects so I couldn’t be hurt by them. Eight years of forcing me to have sex with him because “I was his wife”.  Eight years of him not working and taking any money I earned.


I still remember the final moments of living with him. I had asked him to move out. I was tired, but more importantly I saw how fearful my daughter was and I didn’t want that for her. I came home from work and instantly I knew something was wrong. This time hiding in the bedroom was not enough. Something told me to call the police something I was never brave enough to do. He took a kitchen knife and said it was over for us. I begged him not to do this. I fought hard. I fought with everything. In what seemed like hours the police showed up and he turned his rage on them. I don’t know why but I begged them not to hurt him. I lied and said it was the PTSD. He finally was disarmed and arrested. 


Now this is the part I am really not proud of, I protected him. I lied to the police and didn’t tell them about what happened prior to them getting there. I lied like all the other dozens of times the police were at my house. I instantly went in the mode to not let anyone know what was really wrong because I knew that meant it was really over.  I went to court and begged them to go easy. The judge listened and sent him to rehab for a few weeks.


Since I live on a military base and I am in the military my unit was notified of the incident at my house. For the first time someone was on my side and only cared how I was doing. They let me talk to them about everything and they just listened. At the end they went with me to get a restraining order and started my journey to end all contact with him. They were my support and family, something I really needed.


I have now only seen him a few times and that was for court. I was strong enough to testify against him for the incident that happened that night. I was the reason why he was finally punished for something he did. Recently I saw him again in court and this time it was to stand up to him for a divorce. It was like a huge weight had been lifted. I am no longer tied to him. I no longer have to worry he will hurt me. I feel safe.

Not ready for the uneasy feelings

NOTE: The following is a journal entry from a real person. A real survivor. 
Please note potential triggers in this important piece.

If you are a victim of domestic violence, read this.

My story of domestic violence : intending to make others aware of the reality of abuse.

I was determined that Monday September 19, 2016 was going to be a good day..then I got a text and an email and my heart sank to my feet and my lunch came out of my nose...my past came flashing before my eyes those few minutes and I realized how fast time really does go by..and I thought; geez we've had way too much going on already and I was no where near ready for this, yet. 

13 years ago I left a marriage that was like a mixture of UFC matches, Drug Wars ( I didn't know this was going on until much later in the marriage), and Criminal Minds that has left me forever traumatized. I honestly believe that's what his intentions were. I didn't leave without the physical scars, the pain of being mentally broken, or without 3 girls that I had when I was so young who had also been scarred from basically burying their father to a life of prison, drugs, alcohol, and abusive behavior toward their mom. 

If you are a woman and have to do any of the following- you are in an abusive relationship, no matter what you think, no matter what you say, now matter who knows and who doesn't know, no matter what. When you realize that, from that point on you are responsible for what you endure , what you decide to allow to go on, and what effects that staying in that mess does to your family, your children, yourself. 

⚠️ I remember hiding them from it all and having to stand there and take whatever was coming thru that door when he walked or broke through the front door being high or drunk or just plain mad. 

⚠️I would have to hide what little money I had to pay bills with cause he would come in and take it in the middle if the night just to take dirty skanks out to get high with him when I was the one who cared and the one who worked two jobs and did anything I had to do in order to put food on the table or care for my kids because he didn't,even if that meant breaking the law myself. 

⚠️There was a night that I was so close to death- I remember as I was gasping for air -I got the strength to fight back- and I did numerous times, but yet there were times after that-his words and actions still controlled me.I don't know why his words did-but they did; 

and that was what I had became used to. 

⚠️ Statements such as these- 

⚠️"Courtney, nobody will ever want you; you have 3 kids, 3 of MY kids," he would say. I never could understand how he could hurt the only one who cared about him THEN. When someone tells you that so many times, you start to believe it.

I eventually divorced and went on with my life; in fear at times in the beginning. I slept with a bat under my bed and a knife under my pillow for years, and with one eye open just cause of the statements he made, " if I can't have you, nobody will." He never, ever said "I want to see my girls, or I want to be a Dad and straighten up." 

Long story short- 

‍‍My family did not raise me to put up with that, I was raised to be sweet, caring, and loving. If my Dad were alive at that time-he wouldn't have been.

I was a young girl who had her whole life ahead of her. I was manipulated by an 18 year old man that "I believed loved me" at the age of 14, and controlled from that point on.

 I should have NEVER been allowed to date him. 

I should have NEVER gave so many chances.

 I should have NEVER trusted the "I won't do it again."

 I NEVER  trusted anyone again period. 

From that experience, I grew cold, mean, and haven't trusted anyone as far as I could throw them. The trauma from that marriage has made me insecure, angry, and bitter. If anyone even tries to grab my hands or acts like they are cornering me the "fight or flight reaction" kicks in and I feel sorry for the one standing in my way cause it's a mission to destroy them until I'm out of the corner and to get passed you. That's why I try to walk off when my space is invaded. 

I have raised girls that are warriors; they don't ever back down from nobody, they speak their mind, and what's on their hearts, the older two have lived daily worrying about their mom when they were little because I didn't gather the courage and kept to myself about what was going on. I didn't want to tell my family, didn't want to hurt them, disappoint them, or burden them. I am thankful my youngest girls has no recollection cause she was so young. These girls are never going to be a victim of anyone in this lifetime. 

Fast forward to today: 

12 of the past 13 years he has been incarcerated. He was released Monday, and I just haven't decided how I feel about it yet, I'm not ready for the uneasy feelings my children will get when they run into him with flashbacks like I have even thinking about this. 

Brian adopted my girls while he was in prison. Brian has and always will be the Dad that loves them, that raises them, that leads them in life. I have a Husband that loves me and would walk across fire for us!! I am forever thankful God spared my life that night I was so close to death...or I wouldn't be here to spend my life with the man I love and the beautiful children we share️️

Last but not least- DO NOT BE THE WOMEN OF SILENCE. I see you at the store, at work, at the ballpark, at the gas station, at my kids school, at the courthouse, at the church in the pew with your heads down afraid to look up, with the bruises on your arms or your legs, the black eyes, the way you are put last, the way you work your butt off while he parties, how he works for just himself and buys what he wants, and you aren't cared for, adored, or cherished, or even loved, the way you carry yourself in a life of violence isn't a secret!! 

IF you are a Mom, Wife, Girlfriend in this type of situation, leave. It doesn't get any better. He is  not sorry and he doesn't love you. You will realize that once you get to experience life outside of that dark hole you are in.

Giving a person like this a second chance is no different than you handing him a second bullet, a second punch, a second kick, a second chance to break you down more and eventually kill you.

I understand people forgive and end up back in the relationship. That's the start of something you will regret. "I stayed for the kids" is a ridiculous excuse for the life of hell you will put them through. 

A lot of people would say "it's the past."

People's past behaviors ultimately create their future. You either end up being who you are told you are by someone else; or you decide to be what you believe you can be in life. 

Don't be a woman after 13 years that has to decide if forgiveness is acceptable. I am one who tries to lead my children to forgive. I have always been burnt when I forgave others so, it prevents me from moving forward. Forgiveness doesn't mean to be friends with, talk to, be around, or forget what has happened; I do believe that if someone wants to be truly forgiven by you, they ask for it. 

My point is: 

Be a better you. Don't let some punk control who you are, or what you will be in life. Don't be another statistic in this world, be a survivor.

Let them live a life of what they deserve by losing you to someone you deserve. You deserve happiness, to be loved, to be cherished, to be wanted. 


Recap: Storytelling Workshops

Sue Schmidt Teaches the Art + Science of Storytelling

We were so excited to welcome Sue Schmidt, storytelling expert best known for her work with The Moth and Say It Forward Productions, as she hosted two storytelling sessions in preparation for the 2018 Take Steps in Their Shoes event.

A major part of this day, taking place on October 6, is the sharing of true stories by those impacted by domestic violence. Whether directly or indirectly, as a survivor, a loved one or someone who joins the journey in a professional capacity, everyone’s story is unique – and everyone’s story is important.

For those who were unable to attend the workshops, keep reading to learn what Schmidt had to say about this vital craft and how to really make a story come alive.

Schmidt specializes in Moth-style storytelling, named after the national stage production. This means stories are true, starring the speaker as the main character, and are delivered without notes for a more genuine and personal approach.

In Moth-style stories:
-          Facts matter – Altering details for security purposes is fine, but non-fiction is a must

-          Safety comes first – Due to the personal nature of the Take Steps in Their Shoes event, keeping the speaker safe is vital; this might mean authors have someone else read a story or certain parts ultimately need to be omitted to ensure identities of those at risk are secured

-          Hopeful messages are powerful – The event is intended to showcase the incredible strength of those affected by domestic violence – our lives may have been touched by the issue, but we don’t let it define us. We’re working for social justice and social change – and inspiring others through our own pieces

Our stories will focus on the journey – the changes to one’s life and showing that we can overcome

So… where to start?

Remember that:
-          Human brains are wired for connection – a well-told story can pull in someone who hasn’t had the same experiences by drawing common ground and interweaving relateable elements. Set up stories in a way that listeners can connect the dots and they’ll be more engaged.

Elements of a story:


Characters – YOU! Who else is there? What is their role?
Setting – Where are you? Describe the time in your life, the time in history, in the world


What does the main character want? Why is it so important?
For example, in The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wants to go home; other things happen but she doesn’t stray from her ultimate goal


What’s getting in the way of what you want? Why?
-          This could be someone else, the situation you’re in, or yourself standing in the way


How does the character overcome the setback? What is special about what they (you!) do?


What’s the deeper meaning?

-          Note: This is actually the LEAST important part of the story… if all the pieces are laid out in a meaningful way the audience should understand this without being told.

A few things to remember:

-          Show, don’t tell – Transport the audience to wherever your story takes place, using familiar sights, sounds, smells – things they can relate to

-          Use the power of stories for good – To influence others and celebrate your story, because it’s unique and amazing – it’s yours!

-          Move your story forward as you tell it, even if the timeline jumps around

-          Stay on point with the plot

-          Help the listener visualize what YOU most want them to pay attention to

-          Follow the rule of 3: When listing items, stick with three, since people often don’t listen to more than that

-          Emotion is great! And it’s always okay to cry, but if a story makes you too emotional to share, choose something that might be easier

-          Practice, but don’t memorize! The audience can tell the difference, and we want to hear from YOU, not a piece of paper

Page-to-Stage… how does that work?!

Before you even write down your story, just think about it, then – write it all! Edit later, just get it all out.

After that… reflect. Is it clear? Are all the points there? This is where Schmidt comes in to help shape a good story into a great one.

Speaking of… great means your story is:

-          Unique!
o   No one else can truly tell your story the way you can

-          Universal!
o   Even though it is yours alone, help others fully understand your journey by bringing them into it

-          Well-told
o   Let listeners know you’re okay – because you are! You want them to get it, not worry about you as you tell it

Now, let’s add music!

Local band The Brevity Thing will be performing live during the event; they’ll be learning songs chosen by speakers to play in-between stories. This adds a cool extra personal touch

So… what should you do?

You’ve learned about stories, now it’s time to share yours!

Send your stories, either written notes, a full piece, recorded audio or video – whatever works best for you – to Jessie Forand, our Development and Communications Manager, at jessf@stepsvt.org. Also reach out to her if you’re feeling stuck or are unsure where to start… sometimes just talking it out sparks a great idea.

Rough drafts should be sent by Sept. 12, from there speakers will meet with Schmidt on Sept. 17 and 27 (at times to be chosen later, in order to best work with different schedules).

Good luck and we can’t wait to learn more about YOU!

Forgiving Myself

NOTE: The following is a journal entry from a real person. A real survivor.
Please note potential triggers in this important piece. Names have been removed.


So, I’m sitting here, thinking about everything. Like how all I ever wanted was to be sure to do for the kids was give them a happy, traditional childhood in a two parent home where they could enjoy life and not ever be forced to grow up too fast.


However, I managed to do exactly the opposite. I wanted my white picket fence, team mom life to work out so badly that I allowed myself to be treated as property for years to a man I loved so much, even worse, TRUSTED so much, that I allowed him to take a once blunt, opinionated, tough/no-nonsense young single mom who was content alone, into an obedient housewife who does what she’s told, when she’s told, or will regret it when she gets her ass beat.


Hell, who am I kidding, even following every last demand I was getting the dignity and self-respect slapped, kicked, punched and strangled out of me regularly, for no other possible reason than just because he felt like it. I mean, seriously, racked my brain for over a year straight and that’s still all I can come up with…


Anyway, because I wanted my kids’ lives to be healthy, happy and normal SO BADLY I was willing to forget everything my single mom taught me, all I had ever stood for, my pride, independence and strength as a woman who stood my ground and took NO SHIT from ANY MAN period. I figured, as long as my babies are happy, have food and shelter and a mom and dad who are committed to raising them together and love them to the moon and back (and more if I could!) but I failed to realize how I can raise happy normal kids when I’m getting beaten bloody at least a couple of times a week and brutally raped so much more than I can admit to myself hardly, much less anyone else, without falling into a deep deep sadness I’m still having trouble being able to snap myself out of.


Seriously though, when I can barely look at myself in the mirror because I’m scared to see what’s swollen, busted or bruised now and ashamed AS FUCK in myself for allowing this to become my life. HOW THE FUCK did I expect to raise NORMAL, HAPPY kids when I know they’ve heard their “loving” father tell me I’m worthless and to kill myself a million times. HOW THE FUCK did I expect them to not be forced to grow up when they saw me with tears in my eyes (which I always tried to hide unsuccessfully) more often than not.


Also, even though most days I could suck it up and play happy SAHM in typical middle class America there were times my babies couldn’t drag me out of the bedroom and I let G care for them because I simply couldn’t take my son trying to comfort me and asking me not to cry ONE MORE TIME. My four-year-old should not have to always try to make mommy feel better. Sometimes I just stayed locked in the room for days at a time making minimal contact with them for the simple reason of HOW IN THE HELL DO I EXPLAIN MOM’S THIRD BROKEN VESSEL THIS MONTH and of course, two fresh black eyes to go with. God forbid [my son] go to my mom’s family’s and tells them mommy has MORE marks. I mean, surely, the “She was drunk and fell” excuse can’t work THAT often. Oh, wait, it wasn’t that people believed that bullshit. They didn’t give a shit either way. WTF is wrong with people? To this day so many people treat this shit so lightly and I’m over here like, WHY IS THIS MAN NOT IN PRISON? On yea, because he has money so he doesn’t have to pay for his mistakes here. I mean I should’ve put in a load of clothes BEFORE I started dishes. TF was I thinking right? A woman’s gotta know her place. Ha. Fuck [the police]. Fuck bitches who lie about abuse so women like me get called liars too and treated as if I was the problem, oh, and continues to be victimized by her abuser well over a YEAR later. Fuck.




Anyway, back to the subject. I was so wrapped up in trying to be the perfect mom for the kids that I forgot part of that is remembering to love yourself so they have a strong, healthy mom who cares enough about herself to properly show her kids how to love themselves and others while caring about being treated with self-respect and dignity instead of as property or trash. I forgot that although they “hardly ever” saw anything that still meant my children had seen their father slap their mom several times and more, too, once or twice. Even just “hardly ever” is WAY TOO FUCKING MUCH for me to have allowed my own children to see. How did I expect them to be truly happy when it makes them sad to see me sad, and I was ALWAYS sad. I could put on a good front but my kids are crazy smart and always knew when I was lying about being ok.


Honestly, [my daughter] may still have a shot, it's [my son] I’m most worried for. He has an insane memory. Sadly, the first memory I know he still has retained from July 2015, when he was three, was crying in fetal position in his room while G was trying to smother me on my son’s bed. It was the first time I was ever physically beaten by G. It was the first time I was viciously beaten, unprovoked, without fighting back. I grabbed my son off the floor, put him in the car and left without looking back… for a month.


Then I was served papers for FULL CUSTODY of my daughter, but told we can drop the custody papers if I'd just bring me and the kids back home. I fell for it. He promised to get therapy, he'd never do it again. Well, still hasn't gone to therapy and although his "never" lasted for a while, after two months of so-called "bliss" came my second beating. WAY worse than the first.


Back to my lovebug, though, let's fast-forward to the very last time [my abuser] will EVER put his hands on me again and live to tell about it.


It's the last week of September, 2016. [My daughter] is a week shy from two, she's also in my arms when her dad breaks my nose, leaving her COVERED in my blood, more blood than I'd ever seen. Next thing I remember is waking up to being shoved into the bathtub while he held the shower head directly filling my nostrils and mouth. My head was split wide open, I've got a very deep gash but no idea how it got there other than knowing G did it. When I got myself up from the shower to see my four-year-old son standing in the bathroom doorway, frozen with fear. He also was clearly in the room when my head was split open because if he wasn't I probably still wouldn't know definitively what happened.


[My son] went to school in a highly-acclaimed private pre-K I busted my ass to get him in, and told his teachers what happened. His teachers reported it immediately, rightfully so, and they called me at work, had me leave early to come to the office, when I asked what happened, I said I had no clue, which was true, except I denied G had hit me at all that night. I was then asked if I wanted my kids, or I wanted [my abuser]. I said my kids, of course, and then heard the recording of the caseworker asking my son "What happened at home, what happened with your mom?" and heard my sweet baby say, "Well, [my abuser] hit my mommy in the head with a gun, then tried to drown her in the bathtub." Completely calm like that was normal, everyday conversation.

At that moment I realized that my innocent, sweet four-year-old boy had to grow up wayyy too fast, I realized he was too smart for his own good, realized he was now traumatized, going to be riddled with trust issues and become incredibly jaded. At only four years old.

Despite all my intentions to give him the best, carefree and loving childhood possible, I gave him the EXACT OPPOSITE. Truly, G gave him trust issues, PTSD, recurring nightmares and a complete lack of trust in all adult men. Regardless of whether or not I'm actually responsible for my son witnessing his mother being ruthlessly beaten, pistol whipped and drowned (well, he tried) at the hands of the only father he had ever had, the man he absolutely adored and loved so dearly, I still felt guilty anyway. My heart was completely shattered, knowing I couldn't stop it. I couldn't protect my son from earth, [my abuser] solidified that evil was in my VERY OWN HOME. It was sitting at my dinner table, in all my family photos, raising my kids along side of me, even sleeping next to me at night. The one man I ever decided to break all my walls down for, the first man I had ever had full and complete trust and faith in, the man I felt sure I would spend the rest of my life with. I can't describe how awful of a feeling that was.


To think that someone I had been friends with since middle school, I had countless memories throughout our lives as we grew into adults, with the man that I had finally fallen for after a decade of him chasing me with no luck. I had built a beautiful family with this man, moved into our first home together and had seemed to have built a near perfect foundation for our already perfect family, yet, the one I truly saw as my partner in life, lover and best friend in the world, the man I thought was too good to be true, well, turned out to be exactly that. There is no blow to the chest quite like losing your other half, best friend, home, stability, confidence, self-worth, the innocence of your children and the gut wrenching truth that he’s always been capable of all this evil and you weren’t any more special than anyone or anything else, ALL AT ONCE.


It was like, Jesus Christ, how much more could you possibly betray me? How can you live with yourself knowing you destroyed the people you claim to love most, your own family, your own children? Innocent babies that you raised, loved and fathered.


Although I still hurt and keep myself up at night, wondering “What if?” What if I tried harder? What if I was more subservient, or worked on being more in shape? Then I realized that to get over this tragic loss and intense psychological, physical and spiritual pain then I needed to forgive myself and for loving the wrong man and desperately wanting my family to stay together, no matter how unhealthy of a situation it became. I also needed to forgive a man that wasn’t even sorry so I could get rid of all the ugliness that had quickly grown into an unhealthy obsession that filled me with anger and sadness, so I could finally begin to heal and start to build my life back up, and be the productive person and the supportive and loving mother that I know I truly am. I long to be a boring lady who just works and hangs out with her kids like I used to be a year ago. I know I’ve gone on and on but long story short, just because life can be really ugly at times, you can’t forget how beautiful it really is when you focus on what’s important.


For me that’s my kids and friends who’ve turned into my surrogate family. Although life has been fucking brutal lately, you’ve got to look at the silver lining to see that these most sad and painful days showed you the only friends that are even worth having. Even people I thought were friends for 15+ years turned out to be snakes once I could no longer contribute to their high or always be able to take everyone out on my dime anymore. When I was just another nobody with nothing all of a sudden they all disappeared. Oh well. Fuck those pieces of shit because in that time other people, some old friends, some new, but all of which loved me unconditionally during the hardest time to love me. Those are my true friends. Quality over quantity. Anyway, as always, everything is as it should be. <3


Spilled Milk

Note: The following piece is powerful and important - some may find it triggering.
It is a real story from a real survivor. 


Since I’m wondering what I’m doing living with my mother - with 2 kids weeks before my 30th birthday after 10 years plus of independence, I figured I’d just type it out, just to try to make sense of it all. 

So I guess I’ll start at the beginning. 6 years ago. A movie date. In hindsight, probably not the best choice but my radar wasn’t as finely tuned then and my standards weren’t the highest if I’m being honest. Just the existence of his wallet and a vehicle (with EZ pass, girl) made him seem like a catch. He was exciting. New. Mysterious. Which again, had my radar been a little better would have been alarming. But anyway...

It was alluring at the time. He lived an exciting life. Trips, parties, the High life. While I was living my regular little single mom life, working hard to provide a stable environment to my 2-year-old son. Just the fact that he was interested in such a life was incredible to me. It was casual at first. I had strict rules about who and what I allowed into my home because of my son. His father and I split while he was an infant and we had a good but brittle co-parenting relationship. I wasn’t ready to expose him to...anything, really. Let alone this man that I barely knew anything about. Come to think of it, though, NO One knew anything about him. Everyone knew him. But didn’t KNOW him. He was “private”. But again...would later find out the better term was “secretive”. But I was hooked.

And he appeared to be equally smitten. First respecting, then overcoming my strict rules about interacting with my son. Spending time...even if it was a quick “hi” on the back porch. As cliche as it sounds...our relationship blossomed. The sex was amazing, the home cooked meals served adoringly and the nights turned to days turned to weeks. And then we were “a thing”. But he wasn’t ready to give up ALL of his vices. The traveling and partying with his semi famous bestie, but somehow that little bit of unavailability added to the allure. For the most part we had a functional relationship.

I let him in. I think I knew I was a goner when I was attempting to potty train my son-unsuccessfully. HE got him trained. I trusted him with my most cherished possession with the most private task possible. And he nailed it. 

He became controlling possessive-but in little ways that aren’t so little in hindsight, but at the time I liked them. He did things like copied MY house keys and reorganized my closet making room for his belongings... both without any preceding discussion. The 2017 me asks “aren’t these things we should have a conversation about first (and besides Mom would kill me if I gave out her house key)” but 2011 me thought it was endearing and showed how much he desperately wanted to be with me. 

We talked of our family life and adding to it, promptly picked out a cute little house for rent and in the process of moving got a positive pregnancy test. We were over the moon, ecstatic! I went to the Doctor for the routine 8 week work up. “Something is off...maybe your dates”, the doctor said. She decided to order an ultrasound to get a better look, which only confirmed there was an underdeveloped sac in my uterus, a blighted ovum. No baby, and in the most scientific delivery possible, the Doctor said, “you can expect what feels like a painful period and then it will be over”. I was devastated, more than I thought possible considering I never met this “tiny life”. I felt silly because I only learned of what I thought was going to be our baby weeks ago and there I was, on the floor of my Doctors office feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. And it had. I was completely unraveling and there was no sign of saving me. But he saw this and immediately sprang into action to comfort and console. He spent the entire day catering to my every want and need, making sure I was comfortable, full, and distracted by all my favorite movies. We spent the day on the couch, just being. 

But then night came and he became ... well, weird. His behavior changed a bit, almost distant, and he said he was going to shower. I assumed he was just getting ready for bed, until he began picking out and comparing outfits. I asked where he was going, and this familiar question received an even more familiar response; “out”. Now I was trained to not ask questions ... don’t ask the details of “out” because I trusted him, and if I trust him why does he need to explain himself? He’s a grown ass man (duh!). But considering the circumstances my curious mind wanted to know where could be more important than home with me taking in our loss. Wrong question to ask and it brought out a side of him that I never saw coming. 

He became enraged. He began screaming at me, pinned me down on the couch calling me an insecure bitch, spitting on me as the words flew out of his mouth. Now, my standards might’ve been low(ish) but I’ve never been one to take shit. So I shouted right back that I didn’t think leaving me alone through this was fair, and that earned me the first (of many) smacks to the face. I collapsed. I couldn’t believe after the day we had, clinging to each other over our shared devastation, this was happening. Who was he? Who did he become? 

Immediately he stopped himself and fell to the ground hugging me, apologizing repeatedly and promising it will never happen again. Once I was calm, because that was what his touch had always provided, he slowly disappeared out of sight. Next thing I knew he had picked me up, slowly and intimately undressed and kissed me, then placed me in a warm bubble bath, continuing with his apologies. I ate them all up. I thought the miscarriage caused him to lose control, this was a new type of stress for us and we didn’t know how to deal, surely this won’t happen again. He loves me, he’s sorry. And before the tub was empty, he was “out”. 

This became a cycle. Another positive pregnancy test. Another miscarriage. Another beating. Or was it the other way around? It was a blur, it’s hard to say which of the two came first. We were hosting a Labor Day barbecue and by the end of the day I was a bleeding, sobbing mess on my bathroom floor, another miscarriage. He was supportive, then distant, then violent and back again. But, as always he roped me back in. I couldn’t resist him, I really didn’t want to. And before we knew it I was pregnant again, almost immediately. I was cautiously optimistic as the days, then weeks passed by. Finally I was in the clear, out of the first trimester and moving smoothly along to the second. Excitement was setting in. 

13 weeks and 4 days. I planned a dinner with an old friend...without permission. He had reached a new level of “controlling”, choosing my friends for me. My closest ones either barely made or didn’t make the cut at all, and he had even taken it a step further and hand selected who it was acceptable for me to associate with. The friend I planned to have dinner with was not on that list. 13 weeks 4 days, and he flew into a rage after I found the keys that he hid to prevent me from leaving the house. He chased me outside the house barefoot in the middle of January and grabbed me with both arms around my waist yanking me back into the house. He entwined my hair around his hand to drag me and slammed me into any available surface-walls, doors, floors, then wrapped his hands around my throat, giving me a case of laryngitis...or severed vocal chords ... either one. My voice didn’t return for 6 months. 

I never made it to dinner that night. And I didn’t make it to an obstetrician for another 3 weeks for a scheduled ultrasound. My baby was dead. The one that stuck around until the second trimester. That magical place where the threat of miscarriage drops to less than 10%. The one that had a 90 or better percent chance of being born healthy. My second son. Dead. That dinner was supposed to happen at 13 weeks 4 days. Estimated time of fetal demise? My Doctor said 13 weeks 5 days. 

One would think this was enough for me to run. Right? I had my son to think about. Eventually he would notice Mommy’s bruises and busted lips, and the screaming at night was bound to start waking him up. Maybe not though. I was able to convince coworkers the bruises were from a new blood disorder, and besides I did bruise easy, he never meant to hurt me. I convinced myself it wasn’t that bad, and we could work through it. It just continued to get worse. 

Two months later despite my better judgement (there goes my weak radar again) we were still together, walking on eggshells clinging to yet another pregnancy. By now I was scared ... of him, of my body, of the unknown. I was just frail, not myself anymore. I loved him and wanted him, but I also started wanting ME back. After another series of arguments resulting in strangulation, smacking, spitting, slamming, death threats...the list really just goes on; I felt my pregnancy symptoms fade. Little by little I felt less and less nausea and since I was an expert at this I knew I should still have symptoms at 11 weeks 3 days. I drove myself crazy until I was sitting in my doctor’s office begging for an ultrasound. I never told her of the abuse, just said I was worried because of the previous unexplained miscarriages and to just please please please check. She was a saint. With a sigh she grabbed the Fetal Heart Doppler and started searching for my baby’s heartbeat...and found nothing. After 5 minutes of repositioning and then reapplying she called down to imaging and got me in. She knew. As soon as the ultrasound technician got a clear picture she turned the screen away from my view. She wouldn’t answer my questions. She had tears in her eyes, this was her 5th time going through this with me. The doctor confirmed another miscarriage. 

I was inconsolable. Another baby...gone? But was this a sign? Were we just not meant to be? How does this happen? Maybe this was my way out of the relationship. Along with the sadness came some new, unfamiliar feelings. Relief. Then guilt. Because that’s NOT how losing my 5th unborn child should feel. But that’s what I felt. Relieved. 

In contrast, he finally broke. He was devastated. This one brought him to his knees. He sobbed uncontrollably, demanded answers as to how or why this could possibly happen to us again, insisted we didn’t deserve this type of torture. Fast forward to a few days later. The day of my d&c. Outpatient procedure scheduled for a first thing in the morning. This meant a 6am arrival which required early morning childcare. While getting ready, my son mentioned wanting to bring his pillow with him to go back to sleep at the babysitters. For some reason he opposed. At this point I was seriously wallowing in my own despair and barely holding it together but I needed to maintain some sense of peace for my son, and since the rest of my life was so far out of my control, I was determined to at LEAST control this. My son, my rules; the fucking pillow was packed. I got my son settled on the sitter’s couch (with his damn pillow) and kissing him goodbye, I made my way back to the car. It was like walking the green mile. For multiple reasons. I knew he was seething that I opposed him, and by now the abuse was so routine so I knew what to expect, but I figured considering the circumstances, I’d get a pass this time. Wrong. As soon as I strapped my seatbelt he whipped his hand around my neck and slammed my head into his car window, twice. We drove in silence on the way to the hospital. When we arrived I told him to just drop me off at the entrance. I wanted out, I needed out. 

I suppose we didn’t have enough going on, you know with the abuse and miscarriages and now him totally resenting my son due to the loss of his own(s), not that my son wanted anything to do with him now. Adding to that we had some uninvited guests in our already failing relationship. Infidelities. Plural. Checking his phone had pretty much become a part of my daily routine. Well, seek and you shall find right? He insisted that the conversation I read was actually from when his best friends phone died and he had lent him his for a couple hours. Riiiight. Around my sons 5th Birthday I told him to pack his shit and leave, this wasn’t going to work, he’s not what I want. I’m afraid of him and so is my son. Well, not exactly like that. I took the cowards way out-understandably. I asked for space, mostly blamed the miscarriages. The whole “It’s not you, it’s me” thing. It worked, for the most part. 

That was December. I made it through the holidays and around Valentine’s Day, he started contacting me again. He was sorry, he acknowledged his wrong doings, opened up about the miscarriages, pressure from his job. I resisted, because the cheating was something my pride doesn’t let me tolerate. The abuse I could take, but not another woman (women), which of course he continued to deny. But once he said he wanted to be with my son and I whether we could have a baby or not my guard was right back down and he was back in. I agreed to a date after talking on the phone and texting for a couple weeks. Sure enough, by mid-March we were just about in full swing. We were starting over and doing it right this time. He was once again the man he was when we first started dating! Who am I kidding?! He was better. He turned on all the charms to win me back, and I couldn’t be happier. 

After a few months of what appeared to be him proving to have legitimately changed, we were living together again. I was also (surprise) pregnant again-this time with twins. This was our blessing. I always believed that everything happens for a reason and God obviously handed us that platter of disaster to strengthen us and finally he’s giving us what we deserved. 

Or maybe he was just giving me what I deserved after taking this dude back time and time again. Cramping and Bleeding, heavily, in my first trimester caused panic. A 6th miscarriage, just when things were going well??? He was distraught, we both were. But an ultrasound the next morning confirmed 1 very strong heart beat still present. Baby 2 did not make it through the first trimester. Maybe it was natural selection, the weaker baby-which is common. It could have been my body rejecting him or her. Or maybe it was the beating that came when I asked why his ex was FaceTiming his work phone that was kept locked in his car. I guess we will never know. (yes I DID say things were going well...it could be worse, other people have it worse I’d always tell myself). What I did know is that I was ecstatic to still be pregnant, but nervous that it was only a matter of time before the other baby “disappeared” because I knew I’d do something to set him off. After all of the loss I experienced, I needed this baby. But I was petrified of him, of my body, of the cycle. 

The pregnancy progressed and so did we. Family and date nights became a regular occurrence, there were no fights to speak of, and he was just about flying home to be with us by the end of his work days. Things were what should be considered “normal”. The further along the pregnancy progressed the stronger our connection became. I started second guessing the problems in our relationship, blaming myself for all of our previous fights. With his help, I convinced myself that my insecurities stressed him to the max and pushed him away causing such a volatile climate. But hold up, this man was actively cheating and had the nerve to say I was insecure ... and my actions drove him to the above...I digress. At the time, I ate it up. 

Our relationship reached a new level of comfort. We had never been more bonded to one another. He was even mentioning marriage and all the ways he’d profess his love for me at our wedding. It was basketball season so he had to work late...a lot. The kids and I made our expected appearances at his games. Really just making our presence known since he was too “private” to do so himself. 

In spite of many complications and concerns, 40 weeks of fear, we gave birth to a perfect, healthy daughter. He was elated and we quickly outgrew our house. Shortly after my daughter was born we upgraded to a beautiful home in a suburban neighborhood. This allowed more space for the kids to play, a humongous yard and best of all a better school district for my son who was starting 2nd grade. Image was everything to him and we looked good. Perfect home and family, gainful employment, we should’ve been all set. Then some familiar unpleasantries started to pop up. Basketball season required late nights, which I understood. But basketball season ended and his late nights didn’t. As any exhausted mom would, I pointed out his absence and requested more help around the house and with the kids. I’ll let you guess what his response to that was. At one point he tackled my tiny frame onto my daughter’s pack and play, bending the metal bar with my back and then proceeded to shake and strangle me until I was choking on blood from the tooth that cut through my lip. I needed stitches but I didn’t go. How could I explain that? My entire body was covered in bruises, my lip doubled in size, and more red fingerprints stained around my neck. When asked what happened, I said I slipped getting out of the shower. My stories weren’t even believable. 

We were both too stubborn to walk away. I think we might’ve believed that finally having a child together meant we needed to “work through our issues”- issues being infidelity and abuse, neither of which he was showing signs of slowing or stopping. There was enough space between his attacks for me to regroup, blame myself for saying or doing something I shouldn’t have, and convince myself that if I changed my behavior, his organically would too. The more I silenced myself in search of what he wanted me to become the more comfortable he was overpowering my being. I became a shadow of who I was before him, before this. 

I guess a month or so had passed before I got the nerve to ask another touchy question ... (it’s alarming to think of how much I accepted then to avoid a fight). After a trip through his text messages, I asked exactly who was supposed to be reporting to his office to be bent over his desk. It was terribly confusing since the messages appeared to be from his best friend, but of course, when I dialed the number it was not his voice that I got. “She” wouldn’t give her name but was terribly sorry, that he told her we hadn’t been together since before the baby. In our 5 years together this is the first time I actually caught him. Any other time was hearsay and he had an arsenal of excuses that I mostly believed (I had to for my sanity). This time there was hard evidence. No denying it. No excuses. He cheated. I confronted him with the question of “who” and began to tear apart his closet, removing as much of his clothing and shoes from the closet as I could. While doing this I talked the most shit, calling him every type of bitch that existed. Talked about how he was gonna get the fuck up out of my house TONIGHT, even if we went half on bills now...I put down the $4k to move in (draining my entire paltry retirement savings). Having his clothes out of the closet wasn’t enough. I began cutting zippers out of pants ... they were of no use to him anyway, snipped the tongues out of his shoes, then I took my pile of liberation and began chucking everything neatly(ish) across our beautifully manicured lawn. This obviously sent him over the edge. Gripping my throat he single-handedly tossed me back into the house and onto the floor, climbed on top of me, pinning me down and strangling me. All I heard him keep saying was that I was going to die tonight. I was convinced I was. All of this commotion woke my daughter. 

My son was at his dads so I figured once I got my daughter settled and back to sleep we would finish what had just started. As I sat on the couch with my daughter he started going off about not leaving and paying bills too. I wasn’t budging, cheating is my limit and working it out was a definite no. I was positive I was done. My response was simple. I reiterated that he needed to go, I was sorry about his clothes and shoes but he just couldn’t be here anymore. I wasn’t nice about it, I also wasn’t sad about it and I wanted him out. Well that wasn’t an option, he informed me that he wasn’t leaving and that we’d fix it now or die together. These were the threats that didn’t scare me, they should’ve considering how many times I could’ve died in the course of being strangled or having my head slammed into windows, walls, doors etc., but they didn’t. I don’t fully remember what happened leading up to him running and grabbing the knife but before I could move he was there pointing it at me. This was different. He never got this close to me with a knife, and I’m holding our daughter. I immediately realized he was in a new space, one we hadn’t reached before. He had the sharp of the knife pushing into my bellybutton, I started begging, pleading with him to stop, promised to drop it and pretend it never happened. With a look I’ve never seen before he cocked back and plunge. 

Somehow I miraculously blocked the knife from penetrating my stomach with the hand not holding my daughter. Blood was spraying everywhere and began steadily pumping out, he had sliced through my middle finger right down to the bone. He was in shock, just stood there holding the knife. Not me, I immediately began instructing him to get a kitchen towel to apply pressure to the wound, and to call 911 because I could see my bone and blood was pumping out so quickly I was afraid he pierced a vein. Once he called 911 I told him to hurry up and grab some Clorox wipes to clean up the blood spatter. I wiped the blood off my daughter’s forehead while she sat on my lap. She didn’t cry, just watched. I had already called my best friend, I needed someone to sit with my daughter while I went to the hospital. She should be here in a few. I made sure he knew that the story was, “I was washing our new knife set”. Clearly that explains why the entire knife set had toppled over, spread across the entire counter and floor. 

The ambulance located .5 miles away was taking longer than expected. I asked him to call back because my hand was going numb. He said they’d be there and just kept muttering about what happened to HIM- “I’m going to jail, my life is over ... why would you grab the knife?!.”- Well no, you aren’t going to jail. I’d have to actually be smart enough to press charges, and I grabbed the knife? Why did I grab the knife? Did I do this?! All serious questions I was asking myself. I called 911 back and the dispatcher said they never got a call. Never. Got. A. Call. He never called, staged an entire call to 911. Good Lord I swore I was going to die. He must’ve called my daughters God parents (these were people that I grew to love but were from his side) because they showed up right after my friend and the EMT’s. It was obvious I needed stitches and my friend agreed to take me to avoid running up a bill I couldn’t pay with the ambulance. He snuck out right behind the EMT’s, my daughter’s god parents stayed with my daughter, and off to the hospital we went. The whole drive there I was sick, completely disheveled, shaking and shivering over everything that just transpired. 

Lying to the hospital staff in front of my friend was especially difficult. I routinely lied to her about the source of all the bruises and fat lips, not that she’d ask. We’d known each other since we were kids, so she knew I wasn’t nervously biting my lip to the point it swelled as I told her I had, and she also knew there was no blood disorder to speak of. If anything this confirmed all that she had mentally questioned before and I knew that. We didn’t speak about it. But I was finally done with him so I didn’t need to hide this from her. She even went along with my lie about washing the new knife set, not that anyone believed it. This was too fucked up to fix. 

14 hours later he was back home. I didn’t even resist. I needed him to be sorry, for the cheat(s) more than anything. I thought the more resiliency I showed to his violence, the more he’d understand how unconditionally I loved him. Sticking around through that was how I showed him my dedication, my unwavering love. I would love him through this pain until it didn’t hurt anymore. I accepted all the apologies and even offered my own. After all, I was the one that grabbed the knife, he wasn’t REALLY going to stab me, right? We were “fine” for about a week and then things really started to unravel. Well they continued to, rather, just more aggressively, I guess.

Conversation was strained to the point of almost nonexistence. For the most part we didn’t talk at all unless we happened to be in the house at the same time and even then it was just a quick, “can you sit with the baby” or “your plate is in the microwave” (yes I was still feeding him, I just wanted shit to be “normal” again). Text updates, check-ins and quick “hi” phone calls stopped entirely. Somehow I was clinging to him more than I ever had. I still craved and even begged for his attention. It was sick-almost like an addiction. A habit I couldn’t (wouldn’t) kick. We still pretended to enjoy sex with one another but I usually had other things on my mind the whole time. Little things like where exactly his dick spent its time during the day, who the woman was that he was bending over his desk, was he even there with me or was he fantasizing about “her”-or even worse a different “her”. Still, I refused to let this fail.

By this time things, had come to a boil with my son and he began confiding in his school social worker-a nice lady working in a very suburban (translation: with almost no racial diversity) school. She called me a couple times with concerns (most of which she had likely never encountered, but secretly expected from us), all of which I brushed off as him being a sensitive kid and not liking or understanding even the slightest conflict. I described the conditions in my home as minor and being addressed, knowing full well they weren’t. Back then I thought my son was oblivious to what was happening-at least that’s what I told myself. He was only 4... (then 5 and 6). But ushering him into his room right before I tasted blood wasn’t protecting him from anything. I know he heard the screaming and house shaking. He wasn’t oblivious at all. I was making MYSELF oblivious to his awareness. He’s always been smart, curious and intuitive. Of course he knew. I am just now imagining how afraid he must have been. He began talking about God. Saying prayers. Having nightmares. Well, shit, he was living a nightmare. It’s so hard for me to realize how terrified he must have been with visions of his mother dying constantly in his head. I didn’t protect him. My one job as his mother was making my son feel safe. And I was failing miserably.

The phone calls from the school happened more frequently and it terrified me. I had no choice but to admit to some of the accusations, letting the social worker know things were indeed out of hand but that I was working on alternate living arrangements. Either he was leaving or I was leaving and I’d update soon. He decided he was staying put, so I started apartment hunting. I called and saw a few, but then my daughters God mother let me know about an apartment I could get into within the next week. Out of courtesy I’d let him know I found something-even though it wasn’t yet solidified. Maybe this was when he’d be sorry, and really mean it. This is when we would fix things, right before we lose it all. He was non-plussed. He acted like I told him the sun came out that day. Unaffected. I was disappointed at his lack of reaction and then disgusted with myself at how pathetic I became. All of my happiness and security was dependent on him. Not myself or my accomplishments, not my two beautiful children but this man who didn’t value an ounce of my being.

On Black Friday I planned to drop the kids off at daycare and get some shopping done. Before leaving the house, I had made arrangements to meet with the new landlord. I guess his lack of reaction at the initial mention of moving out was him calling my bluff. He knew me well enough to know that when I mentioned it before I was just testing the waters, but the fact that I was really taking action and going through with this threw him off. I loaded the kids up in the car and was in the process of strapping my daughter in when he jumped into the driver’s seat and put the car in reverse, stomping on the gas. I was barely able to make it into the car and shut the door before he took off down our driveway. He was yelling that we were all going to die together, I tried pleading with him while holding on to both of my screaming babies. I sneak texted
one of my closest friends and told her what was happening, gave her my location and asked her to please be on alert. I told him the cops were on their way. They weren’t, of course as I instructed my friend not to call and I knew she wouldn’t. Somehow I was still protecting him while he was driving maniacally and threatening me and my children’s lives. Remembering and retelling this story, I hate that version of myself, she was weak and pathetic. Finally the car was stopped in our driveway and he got out of the car without a word. I couldn’t move. I just sat in the backseat hugging my babies. My son was shaking, this had to end now. 

But of course it wouldn’t. He emerged from the house with a knife to his own neck, standing in the doorway of the garage. Crying and saying he would stab himself in the neck if I broke up our family. Because obviously I was the one who broke up our family. Not the man who barely acknowledged my existence since he got caught cheating, who only touched me sexually or violently but no longer intimately, who resented my first child and took away 6 of my babies. It was all my fault. And he was going to kill himself if I left. Truth be told, he was going to kill me if I stayed … and if he didn’t I might’ve done it myself. I reached a new low the time I considered starting the car and not opening the garage door. I was tired. Not just energy drained tired. I was physically, mentally and emotionally mangled and I reached my “enough is enough”. The only way I could be what my children needed was to force myself out of this miserable and dangerous cycle. I left, mostly because I knew without question my son was going to report that whole incident to his school and my children would’ve surely been ripped from their home. I was not providing a safe living environment. That fear saved us. Good parents make better decisions than I was, and I wanted to be a great parent. We left and never looked back. It’s been 362 days since I signed a lease and fled. A couple of affordable apartments in very undesirable neighborhoods failed for various reasons and here I am, back at my mom’s house. Reflecting, counting my blessings that we survived this ordeal and eating a serious slice of humble pie. We are continuing to work on co-parenting our daughter, and have made strides but still have a long way to go. He doesn’t quite get the concept but we will get there. Thanks to my unrelenting (read: foolish) love, his life and career remained unharmed and unchanged, and he has even had some new successes as there are no police reports detailing any of our past. I, on the contrary am beginning the difficult process of rebuilding mine and my children’s shattered lives from the ground up. Changed careers, learned and began changing things about myself, raised my fucking standards for men, reestablished some sort of trust and normalcy for my son, set some goals for myself and wrote my story.

If given the opportunity, I’m sure he would tell a very different tale. He wouldn’t tell of the beatings, only of my insane jealousy, my desperation to keep him home at all times, the times I’d block the door to keep him from leaving and he had no choice but to defend himself, the times I packed his clothes up after he “fell asleep at his moms” or some other fantasy he would try to feed me. And it’d be true. Because I was a fighter. And I was fighting for us. I was fighting for his love. I was fighting to NOT be what we were. What I was. It’s funny how there are so many different versions of the truth. My version includes scars-both physical and emotional, falsified medical records, and dead babies, though. This is MY truth.